During an interview guitarist and musical director for Justin Bieber, Dan Kanter commented on his work with the Canadian superstar. Dan prepares to be sworn in a reality talent show exhibited in Canada, YTV’s The Next Star , and was asked about his experience alongside Justin , since he met the singer in 2009 and some fun facts about the period on tour and his fans, better known as “Beliebers“.
Canadian Business: How did you start working with Justin Bieber?
Dan Kanter : I was in contact with a guy named Shawn Marino, who works for Universal Music. I owe him many dinners. Justin was performing in Toronto on MuchMusic in 2009, and was one of the first times he sang on TV. His team was talking about bringing another person because they wanted a second guitarist for this performance. But they also wanted someone who could possibly be a musical director, teach him to make music, and just being a good influence. They contacted the record company and Shawn recommended me.
So what happened after that?
Dan Kanter : I went to meet them the next night at the hotel and we immediately got along. Justin was living in Atlanta for a long time and I was actually the first Canadian after awhile he found. Musically, we had great chemistry and play immediately. Instantly, I could see how incredibly talented he was. They had sent me the two songs that we would be presenting on TV, and I rehearsed with my guitar, before going to the hotel to meet with them. I said: “You want to play the songs that we will introduce tomorrow?” And he was about to teach me, and I said , “No, no, I have learned.” He was so impressed by what I had learned the songs. I am a professional, so of course I was prepared. But it was really cute. He was so young and so inexperienced that time. And soon after that day, I traveled 300 days a year over the last five years. I literally went home and packed my bags.
What does being the musical director of Justin Bieber and what it involves?
Dan Kanter : Musical direction really starts with the planning of the album and his organization to a live performance. Bieber, this includes working closely with a large team, including choreographers, costume designers and illuminators. This also included a bit of training for performance, writing the set list with him and help him with lessons from a music and another, especially when he was young. Now he is very ‘hands on’. He has an incredible vision for his show, so it’s much more collaborative.
How did the need for lessons to help you?
Dan Kanter : One of the first things I taught him and he still holds today is a very basic concept. Instead of saying: “Now I need you to sing along with me on the next song,” he say, “You’re in the mood to sing Well, I need you to sing along?.” So, we encourage the audience with a question.
You are admired by a lot of Beliebers. How is that?
Dan Kanter : It’s crazy that these children know the whole team because I grew up loving Elton John, Springsteen, Tom Petty’s – and all those guys kept the same bands. I always opened the CD or cassette tape and read the liner notes to find out who were the people behind the scenes. Every time someone comes to me in a situation and says, “Oh my God, you’re the guitarist Justin,” my immediate reaction is, “Wow, you’re a big fan of Justin Bieber if you know who I am.”
What is a typical day on tour?
Dan Kanter: The only meal that we really have is a snack, so I usually go to a place famous for its breakfast. So we usually hit the spot [the show] together. Justin travels with a trainer and he is great, and we like to hang out together, and this is crazy. Generally, I’ll write something or write in my hotel room before going into the arena. Usually there are many fans outside and we’ll talk to them, and I really like it. That always makes me more excited to play the show at night when we go outside and talk with fans before. Then we had dinner and I’ll watch the opening bands. I go to Justin’s dressing room and talk about the show, we look at the set list and make some observations about the show the night before. We do 30 minute vocal warm-up before the show. Often ended up just playing and actually wrote a lot of ideas, because it is just he and I and a guitar. We do a pre-show prayer with everyone, go on stage and sent to see.
What are some misconceptions about your job?
Dan Kanter : It’s not as glamorous as everyone thinks it is. I know it is common for musicians say this, and I’m not complaining, but with many trips, sometimes I feel alone on the road. I always miss my wife. There are times when I simply can not imagine staying anywhere else. And I do not think most people know how it is involved and be a professional musician. I sit in the lobby and wait for the van to get to the airport. So I hope he check in, step for security, and so on.
It seems that his career took off quickly.
Dan Kanter : For me, and for so many other musicians I know it was a long and difficult road. There were so many times I considered working in the area of real estate or to law school, or have a plan of escape, until today. I still am lucky that many doors opened. But who knows what the future could hold. This is a very volatile business.
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